Google tool lets you share data from BEYOND the GRAVE
'If you're reading this, I must be dead'
Between Google search, GMail, YouTube, and other sites, a vast number of internet users now access Google services every day. So it makes some sense that the Chocolate Factory has implemented a new system that lets you tell it how long you need to have stopped Googling before it assumes you must be dead.
Dubbed the Inactive Account Manager, the new feature allows Google account holders to specify automated steps for the online giant to take if they should conspicuously drop offline – presumably into the hereafter.
"Not many of us like thinking about death – especially our own," Google product manager Andreas Tuerk wrote in a blog post on Thursday. "But making plans for what happens after you're gone is really important for the people you leave behind."
The feature, which is available now and is configurable from the settings page of any Google account, lets you set the duration of inactivity that must pass before Google starts measuring your virtual coffin.
The choices aren't exactly fine grained. The minimum timeout is three months and the maximum is a year. Once the feature is enabled, Google says it will issue you an alert via mobile phone or email one month before your chosen deadline elapses, to give you one last chance to let it know you don't want to go on the cart.
Assuming your account remains silent, Google can initiate several actions at your prior request. First, it can notify up to ten people of your demise via email – and you can draft a custom-crafted message for each, so have fun with that.
Optionally, you can also share your data from Google services with your ten trusted contacts. Types of data you can choose to offer include your mail, contacts, Google+ stream and circles, YouTube videos, Picasa web albums, and files from Google Drive, to name a few. You can even share your feeds from Google Reader – which, ironically, is itself deceased.
Your contacts have just three months to access your data before it's locked up for good, and as an additional security measure, they'll need a verification code to access your accounts. Google will send them the code via their mobile phones, so you'll need to make sure you know their phone numbers to activate this part of the service (and you'd better hope they don't change).
Finally, after all your other requested actions have been completed, you can have Google delete your account. This will erase all of your data from all of the Googly services you use; you can't delete your Gmail but preserve your YouTube videos for posterity, for example. Everything goes.
Here at El Reg, we think this is a valuable service and it should give some solace to people who worry about just what will happen to the growing pile of data they've stored in Google's cloud once they've passed on.
But, as even Google's Tuerk pointed out in his blog post, "Inactive Account Manager" just doesn't have the right ring to it for such a – ahem – grave matter. Can Reg readers come up with a better name for the Chocolate Factory's latest feature? Post your suggestions in the Comments. ®